Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.
New Jersey law prohibits the following individuals from possessing firearms and, since 2019, ammunition:
- Any person convicted of a “crime,” or attempt or conspiracy to commit a crime, of aggravated assault, arson, burglary, escape, extortion, homicide, kidnapping, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, bias intimidation, carjacking, gang criminality, racketeering, terroristic threats, unlawful possession of a machine gun, unlawful possession of a handgun, unlawful possession of an assault firearm, leading a firearms trafficking network, endangering the welfare of a child, stalking, domestic violence, or certain weapons-related offenses;1
- Any person who has ever been committed for a mental disorder to any hospital, mental institution or sanitarium unless he or she possesses a certificate of a medical doctor or psychiatrist licensed to practice in New Jersey or other satisfactory proof that he is no longer suffering from a mental disorder which interferes with or handicaps him in the handling of a firearm;2
- Any person convicted of the unlawful use, possession or sale of a controlled dangerous substance unless the offense was classified as a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense;
- Any person convicted of a disorderly persons offense of domestic violence;3
- Any person who is subject to a domestic violence restraining order, or an ex parte order that specifically prohibits the possession of firearms;4 or
- Any person convicted in another U.S. or foreign jurisdiction of a crime comparable to a crime listed above.5
In New Jersey, all prospective firearm purchasers must obtain either a permit to purchase a handgun (one handgun purchase per permit),6 or a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FPIC) (one card allows unlimited rifle and shotgun purchases),7 from local law enforcement or the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) prior to buying a firearm.8 New Jersey has adopted many classes of prohibited persons that cannot obtain permits or FPICs, incorporating some of the federal prohibitions as state offenses.
No permit to purchase a handgun or FPIC shall be issued to any person who:9
- Has been “convicted of any crime” (under New Jersey law, a crime is an offense “for which a sentence of imprisonment in excess of 6 months is authorized);”10
- Has been convicted of a “disorderly persons offense” involving an act of domestic violence,11 whether or not the person was armed with or possessing a weapon at the time of the offense;
- Is “drug dependent;”12
- Is a “habitual drunkard;”
- Is confined for a mental disorder to a hospital, mental institution or sanitarium;
- Has ever been confined for a mental disorder, is an alcoholic, or suffers from a physical defect or disease which would make it unsafe for him or her to handle firearms, unless the person can provide “satisfactory proof” that he or she is no longer suffering from that particular disability in a manner that would interfere with his or her handling of firearms;13
- Refuses to waive statutory or other rights of confidentiality relating to institutional confinement;14
- Knowingly falsifies any information on the application form for a handgun purchase permit or FPIC;
- Is under 18 years of age for a FPIC;
- Is under 21 years of age for a permit to purchase a handgun;
- Is subject to a restraining order prohibiting the person from possessing a firearm;15
- Has had his or her firearm seized by law enforcement for a domestic violence offense and whose firearm has not been returned;
- As a juvenile was adjudicated delinquent for an offense which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a crime and the offense involved the unlawful use or possession of a weapon, explosive or destructive device or is listed in New Jersey Statutes Annotated § 2C:43-7.2d; or
- Is named on the consolidated Terrorist Watchlist maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Finally, no permit to purchase or FPIC shall be issued where the issuance would not be in the interest of the public health, safety or welfare.16 In addition, an applicant must be of “good character and good repute in the community” in which he or she lives.17
For more detail on the permit to purchase a handgun and FPIC requirements, see the New Jersey Licensing of Gun Owners or Purchasers section.
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- N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-7. An offense under New Jersey law only constitutes a “crime” if a sentence of imprisonment in excess of 6 months is authorized. N.J. Stat. § 2C:1-4.
- N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-7(a).
- N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:25-29(b); 2C:58-3c(6).
- N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-7.
- N.J. Admin. Code § 13:54-1.9(a).
- N.J. Admin. Code § 13:54-1.9(b).
- N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3a, 3b.
- N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3c, N.J. Admin. Code § 13:54-1.5.
- See N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:1-4.
- See the Domestic Violence & Firearms in New Jersey section for further information.
- See N.J. Stat. Ann. § 24:21-2 for the definition of “drug dependent.”
- See N.J. Admin. Code § 13:54-1.6.
- N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3e.
- See N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:25-29b.
- N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3c(5).
- N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3c. A FPIC is valid so long as the holder is permitted to possess a firearm. See N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:58-3f. A permit to purchase a handgun is valid for 90 days, and may be renewed for good cause for an additional 90 day period. Id.